By Freidricka Camille, Community College and Internship Programs Coordinator
Photo Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
My name is Freidricka Camille, and I am excited to join the AALEAD family as the new Community College and Internship Coordinator.
A little bit about me, I was born and raised in the Philippines for eleven years before my mom and I immigrated to the United States to live with my dad. It was the summer before 6th grade. When I lived in the Philippines, I had imagined that America would be composed of middle class Caucasians who lived in big homes with white picket fences and that the only American traditions would be the 4th of July and Thanksgiving. At least that was what I thought from watching 1990’s Disney and Nickelodeon shows such as Full House and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
We first lived in Bradley Beach, NJ, which was a small suburban beach town in central Jersey that was probably just a square mile in size. During the summer before I started school, I felt like a visitor exploring a new world. My dad had established friendships with the neighbors and he introduced us to his older friends of Italian American descent and Irish American descent who still held connections to their Italian and Irish heritage. Through my dad’s friends, I learned about Italian cuisine such pasta noodles made from scratch and homemade pasta sauce. I also learned about making Irish soda bread and Shepherd’s pie.
It was not until I went to grammar school that I recognized the diversity of our small town. My schoolmates were composed of various European, African, Puerto Rican, and Mexican descent. In history class, I learned about the Irish potato famine and the struggles of Irish Americans finding jobs in the United States. My Caucasian classmates proudly shared stories about their grandparents’ grandparents who immigrated through Ellis Island. My other classmates of African, Puerto Rican, and Mexican heritage were of second or third generation and were easily able to relate their parents or grandparents’ stories to a chapter we were reading in class at the time. While I was fascinated by the rich culture and diversity of America, I struggled to share my voice and heritage with others.
There was hardly a whole page about Filipino Americans in our history book, and earlier chapters talked in greater length about other Asian peoples. At that time, my knowledge of Filipino history and traditions was rooted in my experience as a Filipino living in the Philippines. I had not yet developed a Filipino-American identity.
It was not until high school that I found a fresh start. I developed my voice. I found a new group of friends in my grade who were genuinely interested in learning more about my Filipino culture. Their friendliness, kindness, and genuine interest in learning helped me have the confidence to share anything from food, traditions, to historical context and perspective, and to show another side of the Philippines, which is often portrayed from a limited lens in the American media. The rest, as they say, is history.
It was my early experience in cross-cultural exchange that led me to move to Washington, DC, to study international affairs and business management in college. By working at AALEAD, I hope to empower Asian American youth and create opportunities where they too can share their voices and learn about their Asian American heritage.